The threads of faith and family are intrinsically woven throughout the fibers of country music, but the results of such albums are not always successful, with some records feeling dry and inspired while others take the bull by the horns and really engage the material. Alabama's latest offering, "Angels Among Us: Hymns & Gospel Favorites," falls into the latter category.
That's not to say that Alabama reinvents the wheel here, but, rather, that they tackle the source material faithfully, giving the songs just a touch of Alabama spin while still retaining the heart and the dignity of the originals. Randy Owen's vocals seem tailor made for many of these songs, warmly bringing life to vaunted classics like "I Saw the Light," the Bill Gaither classic "Because He Lives" and "What a Friend We Have In Jesus." Also making the set list are a subdued, jazz-tinged take on "Just A Closer Walk With Thee" alongside southern gospel staples "Church In the Wildwood" and the rousing "Let's All Go Down to the River." And, of course, any collection of country gospel covers wouldn't be complete without a take on crowd favorite, "I'll Fly Away," and the band does it with gusto, plucky rhythm guitars and ticking percussion leading the way.
As a solid compliment to the list of vaunted hymns and classics, Alabama offers up solid inspirational notes from their own catalog. Listeners will find a live version of their Christmas hit, "Angels Among Us," as well as emotive delivery of "Raising Alabama," written after a terrible run of tornadoes swept through their home state, devastating homes and businesses. "Lift Me Up" is a warmhearted country inspirational tune, while "The Last Altar Call" blends the best of both worlds, country flair blending with rich organs and thumping bass lines. And, while it's not an Alabama original, their delivery of the lesser known "Knights of Molite" stands as one of the album's bright highlights, the band delivering rich southern-flavored call and response gospel with the best of them.
Alabama's "Angel's Among Us: Hymns & Gospel Favorites" finds the celebrated band still sounding strong after all these years. Add in the welcome and warm familiarity of these classic songs, delivered in signature Alabama style, and fans of country and gospel have plenty to celebrate.